The first rehearsal of the Australian Boys Choir took place in Melbourne on October 20th 1939, a little over one month after the outbreak of World War II. After some success with a choir at Toorak Central School, Vincent Kelly, a dedicated school teacher, began rehearsing with 28 boys at the Toorak Scout Hall. Annual summer trips began in 1940 and by 1947, there was a long waiting list to join the Choir.
Following a successful tour to Tasmania in 1951, a branch of the Choir was established in Hobart in 1952 and another in Adelaide in 1954, however since the 1960s the Choir has largely operated from its base in Melbourne. In 1971, the boys enjoyed their first overseas tour to Japan which lasted just over a month. Vincent Kelly was not well enough to journey with the boys and following his death in March 1972, Geoffrey Jones was appointed and remained Artistic Director until 1978. A necessary time of transition, Geoffrey led the choir in a strong program of concerts and tours including the annual Carols by Candlelight at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Recording was also a major focus in this decade. A second overseas tour eventuated in 1976 when the Choir was invited to help celebrate the American Bicentenary in Philadelphia.
Ian Harrison, a long-term friend and staff member of the ABCI, took over the reins as Musical Director when Geoffrey Jones retired at the end of 1978. Ian’s influence on the Choir and repertoire was profound and long-lasting, and included the introduction of Kodály music training. Taking over from Ian Harrison, Noel Ancell assumed the post of Artistic Director in 1983 and was responsible for the formation of two additional choirs. The Kelly Gang (originally known as The Junior Consort, but now named after the Choir’s founder) is a group for young men whose voices have changed. Formed in 1984, The Vocal Consort is an ensemble for young adults that takes a core part in Institute concerts, as well as maintaining an independent concert and touring program. This career path from the youngest training groups through to The Vocal Consort, has remained a distinguishing feature of the Australian Boys Choral Institute.Nicholas Dinopoulos was appointed to lead the organisation in 2018, and is the Choir's current Artistic Director. A teaching artist and conductor working across Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education sectors, he has also brought over a decade of professional performance experience as a singer in opera, concert and recital throughout Australia and New Zealand to the role. Nick’s earliest initiatives have included developing a range of external partnerships, as well as a co-educational Early Learner’s program. These have expanded the opportunities available to singers and introduced our renowned programs to the youngest aspiring musicians in the Choir's history. The Choir was proud to launch these during it's 80th Anniversary year in 2019. The Australian Boys Choral Institute continued to grow, adapt and thrive throughout the global pandemic. Despite having moved its programs online for the better part of 2020-2021, the ABCI recorded the single largest number of singers ever enrolled during this period. The Institute was proud to resume its regular full series of concerts in 2022 and connect with a new worldwide online audience via Australian Digital Concert Hall. 2023 saw this relationship continue as the Choir's hallmark touring operations also resumed. The ABCI celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2024. As the country's 'first and finest' secular choir for boys and young men, it continues to train more singers than ever before. It is currently expanding its non-auditioned Early Learners classes for both girls and boys aged 4-7 years, and also offering the first stage of its formally auditioned training program in the Western Suburbs.